Background: A large range of genetic tools has been developed for the optimal design and regulation of complex metabolic pathways in bacteria. However, fewer tools exist in yeast that can precisely tune the expression of individual enzymes in novel metabolic pathways suitable for industrial-scale production of non-natural compounds. Tuning expression levels is critical for reducing the metabolic burden of over-expressed proteins, the accumulation of toxic intermediates, and for redirecting metabolic flux from native pathways involving essential enzymes without negatively affecting the viability of the host. We have developed a yeast membrane protein hyper-expression system with critical advantages over conventional, plasmid-based, expression systems. However, expression levels are sometimes so high that they adversely affect protein targeting/folding or the growth and/or phenotype of the host. Here we describe the use of small synthetic mRNA control modules that allowed us to predictably tune protein expression levels to any desired level. Down-regulation of expression was achieved by engineering small GC-rich mRNA stem-loops into the 5′ UTR that inhibited translation initiation of the yeast ribosomal 43S preinitiation complex (PIC). Results: Exploiting the fact that the yeast 43S PIC has great difficulty scanning through GC-rich mRNA stem-loops, we created yeast strains containing 17 different RNA stem-loop modules in the 5′ UTR that expressed varying amounts of the fungal multidrug efflux pump reporter Cdr1p from Candida albicans. Increasing the length of mRNA stem-loops (that contained only GC-pairs) near the AUG start-codon led to a surprisingly large decrease in Cdr1p expression; ~2.7-fold for every additional GC-pair added to the stem, while the mRNA levels remained largely unaffected. An mRNA stem-loop of seven GC-pairs (∆G = −15.8 kcal/mol) reduced Cdr1p expression levels by >99%, and even the smallest possible stem-loop of only three GC-pairs (∆G = −4.4 kcal/mol) inhibited Cdr1p expression by ~50%. Conclusion: We have developed a simple cloning strategy to fine-tune protein expression levels in yeast that has many potential applications in metabolic engineering and the optimization of protein expression in yeast. This study also highlights the importance of considering the use of multiple cloning-sites carefully to preclude unwanted effects on gene expression.